13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a

Second Reading: Romans 6:3-4,8-11

Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42

In an age when people are growing farther apart, there is a greater need for friendliness more than ever before, and the traditional value of hospitality is once more being rediscovered.

We have a beautiful story in the first reading. It’s the delightful story of a couple who made the prophet, Elisha, welcome under their roof and as a result, were rewarded with the gift of a son. The wealthy lady saw in Elisha a holy man and treated him with care and respect and the lady was given a prophet’s reward: a son in a year.

This is an indication of how hospitality is precious in the eyes of God. God invites us first through baptism so that we can share in the life, death and resurrection of Christ and, therefore, become bearers of the message of God’s hospitality as we heard from the second reading. We become alive for God in Christ Jesus.

The gospel reminds us of all the small ways of giving and caring, even a trivial act of kindness like giving a cup of cold water to a stranger on our doorstep, which will win God’s favor and result in a great blessing. Fr. Henri Nouwen in his book entitled Reaching Out, defined hospitality as: “the creation of a friendly space where a stranger can enter and leave in freedom” and also, providing a comfortable empty space for them. In other words, it is the capability of giving up one’s comfort and well-being in order to put oneself in the place of others.

Hospitality is a demanding task as it involves a reshaping of our attitudes. It may mean coming to grips with years of in-built selfishness which goes against the grain.

Before I came to Los Angeles to serve here as a priest, I was in the mining community up in the mountains of Northern Philippines. One time, when I went home to our place in Kiangan, Ifugao Province, I really enjoyed my stay. I visited some of my relatives, smiling at people that I met on the road and occasionally stopping for a short talk or just to say hello. It was really nice to experience the simplicity, friendship, warm welcome and hospitality of people I knew when I was growing up. But what touched me most was when my childhood playmate ran up to me and handed me a bag of mangoes which came from his small farm, for me to bring along on my way back to Lepanto Mines.

The world we live in is crying for small acts of mercy, which cost little but are sadly missing like a smile, a word of appreciation or a phone call. In extending welcome to other people, we are following in the footsteps of the Master who has room for everyone in his heart.

Christ comes to our doors in many disguises and is not always recognizable. There are times when we are reluctant to help our neighbors in need. Perhaps we feel that they do not deserve it. Sometimes it is because we simply do not have the motivation nor the patience to make sacrifices for them. When a stranger comes looking for help, our natural instinct tells us not to get involved nor to trouble ourselves. Unless we have made a conscious decision to reach out to those in want, we will resent the disturbance such intrusions make on our privacy and therefore run the risk of neglecting a genuine needy person.